The day is February 24, 2022, but it’s easy to mistake it for September 1, 1939.
2022. [Image via Reuters]
All the mentions of Russia we’ve been seeing all over the news since the beginning of the year can no longer be brushed aside.
Quick, what are the issues?
Two things are important to note about the conflict:
1. Ukraine wants to protect itself from being constantly bullied by Russia.
2. Russia’s response:
A short history lesson
Ukraine and Russia used to belong to this giant republic called the Soviet Union.
It was a coalition that included a dozen other socialist states.
The Soviet Union, with Russia at its centre, was the largest nation in the world and very influential.
The members centralised their power until the arrangement fell and everyone went their separate ways in 1991.
It’s the story of the Tower of Babel.
Catch me up to the present
The short version of what’s going on is Russia is still daydreaming about its former lover, Ukraine.
And the worst thing about a former lover you’re still not over is watching them move on with new lovers.
What’s the long version?
As part of their separation arrangement, Ukraine gave Russia hundreds of its nuclear warheads in exchange for protection…from Russia.
The two signed a series of diplomatic agreements that covered economic and security issues.
This didn’t matter much to Russia when it took over Crimea, a part of Ukraine, in 2014. The peninsula was illegally annexed to Russia after a disputed referendum that showed people there wanted out of Ukraine.
The world basically stood by and let it happen because they didn’t want to upset this guy:
His name is Vladimir Putin, but you can call him Aquaman [Image via Reuters]
Is that why there’s a full scale war now?
The power balance between Russia and Ukraine has been uneven since the fall of the Soviet Union.
It looks like this:
Russia has remained a world power with nuclear capabilities making it extremely tricky to mess with them, while Ukraine has merely been…hanging on. This has made it easy for Russia to bully Ukraine whenever conflict happens between the countries.
To address this imbalance, the current Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, revisited the idea of joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 2021.
NATO is a military alliance of 30 countries, mostly in Europe, led by the United States of America who is also Russia’s biggest rival on the global stage. To Russia, it isn’t just a former lover moving on, this is a former lover moving on with the one person that’s also making your life difficult.
The organisation’s whole arrangement is based on collective security against attacks by external parties.
When NATO was created in 1949, the Soviet Union as one of its biggest adversaries. But since the union dissolved, former republics have joined up with NATO. Five of them currently share borders with Russia, and this has fueled fears that the country will eventually be surrounded and isolated.
Vladimir Putin isn’t a great fan of Ukraine becoming another neighbour aligning with NATO as that poses a security concern for Russia. So, towards the end of 2021, he started moving troops along the borders shared by both countries to flex his muscles.
As the number of Russian troops grew to over 150,000 over the past few weeks, Putin’s main demand was no NATO membership for Ukraine. Ever.
After Russia stole Crimea in 2014, two regions of Ukraine, Donetsk and Luhansk, also declared themselves independent republics.
The referendums they used to proclaim themselves free from Ukraine were not recognised by the international community.
The rebellion in both regions sparked an armed conflict against the Ukrainian military and has claimed over 14,000 lives in the past eight years.
After weeks of repeating that the Russian troops’ movement has nothing to do with an invasion of Ukraine, Putin officially recognised the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk on February 21, 2022.
He ordered Russian troops into both regions to “maintain peace”, a move that brought them on a collision course with the Ukrainian military.
This was Putin’s pretext to finally invade Ukraine.
What is the world doing?
We have to mention that Ukraine’s current president is a former comedian, so it’s no surprise we woke up to this on February 24:
The meme was posted at a time when Russian troops stepped into Ukrainian territories and started an invasion that had been feared for weeks.
Explosions have been reported in many parts of Ukraine including Kyiv, its capital.
Ukraine also claims to have shot down five Russian jets.
The situation is so bad now that Zelensky has offered to give weapons to civilians who are willing to defend Ukraine against the invading Russian force.
As it stands, the reaction of world governments has pretty much looked like this:
I am a Nigerian in Ukraine, what should I do?
The Nigerian Embassy in Kyiv has advised Nigerians stuck in Ukraine to…remain calm.
The embassy said anyone disturbed by the situation should relocate by private arrangements, and ensure all their documents are in order.
The embassy remains open for consular services.
The House of Representatives also resolved on February 24 to commence the evacuation of Nigerians from Ukraine.
There are no details yet on how that will be done, but operations have been scheduled to start on February 28.